Posts Tagged ‘Street Art’

Gajin Fujita and Fred Tomaselli: Murals in La Jolla

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013
Fujita's Tail Whip

Fujita’s Tail Whip

Tomaselli's Learning to Fly(for the Zeros)

Tomaselli’s Learning to Fly(for the Zeros)

There are two recent additions to the murals in the village of La Jolla.  Gajin Fujita’s Tail Whip and Fred Tomaselli’s Learning to Fly (for the Zeros). And they are widely different and both sort of alarming at first glance.

Fujita’s is on a wall on Fay Street which used to have Anna Gallaccio’s electron microscope picture of a sand grain Surf’s Up on it.  The last time I saw Surf’s Up it did look a little faded but I really have no idea why it’s been replaced. The official webpage for the murals offers no explanation and in fact Gallaccio’s name is gone from that site.  I thought that was odd.

Fujita’s piece is on a black background and looks very “urban graffitti.” There is a dragon swooshing through it, although from a distance it’s hard to pick out. A passerby said it was very controversial but I think anytime you put something on a wall it’s controversial. This, more than the other murals, requires a certain suspension of OMG IT’S GRAFFITI.  It is not the only mural in La Jolla that causes instant opinions.  Thankfully.  We hardly need art that nobody notices.

Detail, Tail Whip

Detail, Tail Whip

Fred Tomaselli’s piece is very noticeable. It’s at the intersection of the major road into La Jolla, Torrey Pines Road,  and the major shopping street, Girard. I was in heavy traffic slowing to the intersection and glanced up and whoa, there it was. This naked guy falling through space. Tomaselli’s explanation of the piece involves considering the wall as a stage and his nod towards the “punk scene” of his earlier time in L.A. (see the writeup in The La Jolla Light). But that is not the instant impression.  It reminded one of my friends of 9/11.  And at the intersection, in traffic, it is a little scary.  Up close, butterflies and insects can be seen in the black space and the body is filled with internal organs.

Detail, Learning to Fly

Detail, Learning to Fly

So, what does it all mean?  Go figure. I think both pieces are great murals because each gets an instant gut reaction from the viewer. That’s a lot better than nobody noticing. A large wall and seconds to make a point—the challenge of murals.

Mark Patterson’s Surfing Madonna

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Surfing Madonna

We’ve been following the saga of the Surfing Madonna with a couple of previous posts.

SignOn San Diego, June 9, 2011,  reports that the artist who constructed the Surfing Madonna, Our Lady of Guadalupe on a surfboard with the message, Save The Ocean beside her, is Mark Patterson. Patterson claimed creation of the mosaic because the  city of Encinitas has decided it must be removed from the gray cement supports of a train overpass.  The mosaic seemed to be epoxied to the cement and chipping it away the only way to remove it.  But Patterson said it was attached to a back-board screwed on with 18 screws.

So Encinitas can safely take it down.  It is on public property with a religious icon.

There has been a lot of back and forth public opinions, Leave It Up/Take It Down.

However, that it would be removed is a no-brainer. The graffiti artist, by definition,  appropriates someone’s property without permission to display his art.

Graffiti in Chinatown, San Francisco

Like this tag in San Francisco’s Chinatown. It may be art, but it is out of place.  And it is not like commissioned public art or murals on walls which have been approved by the owners, like the La Jolla murals.

Patterson’s notion that the train overpass would be an okay place for his art is naive at best.  He did after all disguise himself as a construction worker wearing a hard hat to put it up, so it would seem that he had some small inkling that he was doing something illegal.  SignOn San Diego states that “Patterson said he was unaware of the city’s public-art approval process.”  That’s like saying you are unaware of a building code.  It’s easy enough to ask.

And it’s hard to believe that his attorney, Anton Gerschner, sees Our Lady of Guadalupe as merely a “cultural icon that is part of our society” and not a religious icon.  The culture and society which revere Our Lady of Guadalupe as holy happen to be Catholic. It’s hard to divorce the Madonna from religion. Even though Patterson says his message “is not religious” but a message to “save the ocean” he did choose a religious figure to ride the waves.

There is no denying that some of the 18,000 drivers a day snap photos as they pass the mosaic, some walkers leave flowers, and some come to Encinitas just to see it.  And if it had not been put in that public spot, maybe not so many would have discovered it.  Now it has not only local followers but national attention as well, reported in such papers as the Washington Post.

I’m sure the city of Encinitas will find a legal place to display it so people can continue to come to see it.  And Patterson’s message, Save the Ocean, will continue as will our appreciation of his skill as a mosaic artist and the unique way he visualized his message. We just need to appreciate his skill and vision in a different spot.

Wind Harp by Ross Barrable and Surfing Madonna by Who?

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Surfing Madonna

More about the Surfing Madonna in Encinitas which I posted last time.  Still nothing is settled.  Still a lot of controversy and commentary.  It’s  illegal art by placement.  Phony construction workers clandestinely epoxied Our Lady of  Guadalupe riding a surfboard to a cement support of a railroad overpass in Encinitas, California.  Hence it is “graffiti” and not commissioned public art. Lots of people coming to look at it, though.  Some hate it as sacrilegious. Some think it is perfect to represent the surfing city. No doubt about the “thought provoking” label. Understandably, the Encinitas City Council says it can’t stay where it is, a “religious” piece on public property. But what to do with it?  It may not be able to be saved and moved if the epoxy is strong.  It’s made of hundreds of tiny mosaic tiles. It may have to be chipped away. And who will pay the cost of conserving it or destroying it? It’s not over yet.

Fortunately, there are many public art pieces not surrounded by such controversy and which present us with an inspiring and appreciated art work.

To Remember Me by Ross Barrable

Singing strings on To Remember Me

One is Ross Barrable’s memorial piece for a Chula Vista leader, Ronald J. McElliott.  It is a Wind Harp.  It hums with the wind in a spot by the bay at the Chula Vista Marina.  I had to stand close to it to hear it but a couple passing by suggested I put my hand on the metal base and my ear close to the base. The metal vibrates like the wire strings above and the whole piece reverberates in the changing wind currents. I can’t image anyone would not be glad to come across it.

There are rocks on the ground with words, “Inspire,” “Listener,” “Friend.”  They reminded me of the scene in the Fellowship of the Ring in which Tolkien’s heroes stand in front of the magic gate to the mines of Moria trying to figure out the writing, “Speak, friend, and enter.”

These rocks, however, do not lead to an Orc infested underground city. The ships in the marina, the California sun, the singing harp are exactly the opposite. Bright day, blue water, a memorial to a friend.  Can’t get much better.

Surfing Madonna–More Street Art

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Encinitas' Surfing Madonna

Encinitas' Surfing Madonna

Graffiti/Street Art is a sticky issue.  It’s been around a long time, its underground, and its illegal.

Since MOCA in Los Angeles currently has an exhibition of Graffiti/Street Art, a lot of new graffiti has been sprayed on and painted out on the walls around the Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo where the exhibition is housed. Brought inside, the graffiti is okay. Outside it’s not.

A May 1 Opinion in the LA Times by Heather MacDonald restates a major issue.  She complains that MOCA gives no “hint” that graffit is a crime against property owners and tax payers who foot the bill for graffiti removal and that moving some of the art and artist into a respectable establishment muddies the waters by honoring illegal art.

And writing a series of articles for ARCA’s blog Katherine Ogden deplores the popular representations of the art criminal as “heroic”.  Well, art criminals can no more be stereotyped than other criminals.  They come in all sizes from respectable gallery owners and dealers to talented forgers to lets-make-a-quit-buck-and-steal-from-this-poorly-protected- museum/private collection.

Or, they place their art on other people’s property.

One of the problems with street art is that the original product can’t be separated from its display place.  Sometimes it is ugly.  But sometimes the art reaches  viewers who respond favorably to it in spite of its placement. Witness the 10 foot by 10 foot mosaic made of hundreds of tiles forming a surfing Madonna, Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Those who know say the face on the nose of the surfboard is Saint Juan Diego.  The mosaic was put in place just before Easter by phony construction workers under a train overpass in Encinitas, in broad daylight, a spot where 18,000 cars drive by daily.

The blue tiles are BRIGHT blue and the gold is GLITTERING, and the Madonna’s face is an intricate pattern of small tiles.

People are leaving flowers in front of it.  Photographing it with cell phones and expensive cameras.  Touching it. Wanting the city to leave it alone.

Is it “defacing” public property or making gray cement worth looking at?

I had to park in a dirt lot, cross the busy street, and wait for the traffic to stop uphill at the red light to photograph it from the opposite side of the road.  While I waited, at least ten people came and went on the sidewalk in front of the piece, taking pictures with cell phones and touching the tiles.  They all seemed to like the piece. The bouquets of flowers were already there, obviously placed by people who like the piece.

The powers that be will have to decide whether it stays or goes.  Right now, it’s art worth seeing.

Graffiti/Street Art

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

La Mesa mural

La Jolla graffiti

In Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art is showing “Art in the Streets” at the Geffen Contemporary. Presented are works by 50 artists covering the history of graffiti and street art from New York to LA, Paris, and Sao Paulo.  Well, 50 artists, but obviously not all of the ones people respect judging from the comments on the site,  A lot of yelling about the artist who was left out, Blek le Rat from Paris. But you can find him elsewhere on the Net.

ARTnews, in its January issue, has a great article “Beyond Graffiti.”  So the interest in street art is becoming legit. Depending on whether you call it graffiti, street art, tagging, or crap on a wall, it is getting press.

Yesterday in the LA Times, tho, the police noticed an increase in graffiti around the Geffen and the museum has taken to the streets erasing the tags.  That’s a rather mixed message. Seems to me if they are presenting as valid the street art inside the museum, they ought to leave the new tags outside at least for the duration of the show. It’s like, good art/bad art.

One commentator  felt that if the art was illegal, it wasn’t art.  But you can steal a Picasso or a Venus from a dig, then sell it illegally, and it’s still art.

El Cajon art from the street

El Cajon art from the street

Nothing in my neighborhood approaches the kind of street art at MOCA.  Nevertheless, there is some art around that is visible from the street, although it is not tagger art, or graffiti, but there by permission of the property owner.  If you get gas at the 76 station in El Cajon  you can look at cranes and pandas on all the walls and metal boxes inside and out while you pump the gas.  No one in the store knows anything about the artist or artists, so it remains anonymous for most of us.

Electrical box

Some other electrical boxes around are painted, with varying skill, and a mural in downtown La Mesa reflects the usual attitude towards graffiti–erase it fast.

I posted the red flower in the blog I did on the murals in La Jolla.  I need to go back and see if it is still there.  It’s in an alley next to a commissioned mural by Kim MacConnel.  So within feet of each other, the illegal graffiti and the legal mural.  Sounds like the streets around Geffen Contemporary.